Barrierbreaking the Phrase: "You're Just an Atheist Because You Want to Sin"
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Barrierbreaker is an Anti-Theistic Secular Humanist trying to tear down walls and create understanding between viewpoints in religion, politics, and race.
So, you’re familiar with the old, “You just an atheist because you wanted to sin,” deal, right? I mean, it’s not always in that form, of course, and depending on your lifestyle, it might be used on others more than on yourself, but chances are high that you’ve a heard a Christian tell some atheist who has some passion that lies outside of the Christian norm, “You just want to sin -- that’s why you don’t believe in God” and thought they more or less won the argument.
And, I’ve noticed, some atheists seem proud that Christians haven’t accused them of sin in their life -- because they are, basically, “good people” according to the Bible’s standards. In their cases ... I’m not going to applaud, because, frankly, being proud of following an arbitrary standard set forth by bigoted desert dwellers missing out on three thousand years of human progress is ridiculous.
To get more specific, I’ve noticed that a lot of the accusations of secret sin concern one’s sex life -- a lot of Christians are weirdly obsessed with the sex lives of atheists, because that’s the one area that Christianity has a stranglehold on that, at the same time, seems to be, on the surface, a victimless “crime” in many respects. I mean, if all sides are of age (looking at you, Catholic priests), consenting, and know what they’re getting into, there seems to be no harm, no foul. And yet the Bible is pretty strict. I mean, for Pete’s sake, Jesus Christ tells his disciples that anyone who looks at a woman with lust is committing adultery -- which, according to the Jewish law book of his day, was punishable by death. And then he implies that it’s better to pluck your eye out than to steal a glance at someone of the opposite sex who passes you on the street. To put it mildly, many of us today would find those attitudes weird.
But if you’ve ever seen a Mark Driscoll or a Francis Chan work their magic, you can see why Christians do what they do, and don’t do what they don’t do -- and how a lot of it based more on their own often amoral desires than they initially admit or even realize. Because, here’s the thing: We’re small human beings in a big, huge universe, and it’s easy, sometimes, for some to feel worthless in this environment. Especially when this worthlessness is encouraged by the angstful sincerity of a Francis Chan or the no-nonsense attitude of a Mark Driscoll. It’s been said before that Christianity depends on breaking down your sense of self esteem and worth so it can then fill you up again with certain other standards and desires, and this seems to be true.
Solution: Use Christian Logic Against Christian Logic
So the line Christians give is that they’re sacrificing themselves, and you’re the one indulging. But that’s completely false. They’re indulging, too. I mean, anyone who has been to a Hillsong-like praise session can see this. It took me awhile to catch on, but from the outside looking in, it seems clear that Christians have a desire to have their self esteem and worth ruined. There’s a kind of visceral joy in realizing that you are nobody and belong to something greater than yourself.
I mean, take that analogy “Jesus Take the Wheel.” You probably drive yourself at times, right? A part of you kinda likes the control, the responsibility, the importance you feel behind the wheel of a car. But can you understand that there might be a certain pleasantness, for some, in having all that operated for you? Just, like, going on autopilot and not having to think about driving and taking care of life -- it can be somewhat pleasant. And if you have to miss out on some things you want to make that happen -- it might be worth it, because a lot of your life that you have to actually put some thought into before you wouldn’t, really, have to put thought into anymore.
That’s kinda why Christians are attracted to Christianity, I think. I mean, without God, they often feel like small people in a big, vast, universe, and they often run up against things in life that seem really difficult. Life and choices can be hard sometimes. It can be difficult trying to figure out the answers to how to make your life matter, how to contribute to a community, how to have a secure future, and so on. And Christianity takes care of all that. Christianity is basically saying, “You don’t have to worry about that -- God’s taking care of it. Just have a seat in the back and relax; trust the process.” And when things aren’t going your way and you begin to worry -- the reaction to that, as well, is that God is taking care of everything, and you can relax about even your worries. Just seek God first, and all the rest of your life will be taken care of, as well.
So Christians, at a certain level, want to be Christian for pretty selfish reasons. It’s a lie then, of course, when they think that you’re indulging in your desires while they’re not. No -- they are also, often, indulging in their desire for meaning and purpose and absence of responsibility (through, among other things, the concept of grace, for example) in their lives -- with a happy ever after (that has you burning in hell, in many configurations) tacked on at the end.
Some atheists have implied that the best way to fight Christians on this statement is to say it’s ridiculous to think people to believe things because of their desires instead of because of facts. But I don’t think people are necessarily that reasonable -- I think it takes a lot of effort to believe things when you don’t want them to be true, in many cases. The key is to actually look at the evidence at hand and see where it leads -- admit that we have desires and biases and use that knowledge to find out what's actually the case without these desires and biases getting us off track (which would often, incidentally, give us results we wouldn't desire, anyway).
I think it’s fine to admit we have desires and wants, and seek to express them. The important thing is to double check that we’re actually fulfilling those desires and wants based on evidence. By underlining the fact that the Christian, as well, has desires and is motivated by them, and forcing them to talk about the evidence behind what they believe as opposed to merely saying they're making a sacrifice while you're indulging, we can continue the conversation by looking carefully at the evidence available. They'll probably still use the argument "you just want to sin" again, and again, and again, like a broken record, but this defense should take them back to the realm of evidence each time it happens.
Breaking it down
So when a Christian says, “You’re just an Atheist because you want to sin.”
You can say, “I could say you’re just a Christian because you’re afraid of taking responsibility for a life without God, you want to go to a happily ever after, and you don’t want to feel bad after you do something wrong, so the concept of grace comes in handy. But that’s not a productive conversation, from my viewpoint. I mean, if I believed everything I wanted, I’d believe that once I died I’d *insert fantasy here.* But I don’t. Do you want to know why?”
Because, in my experience, Christianity is so often cast as a sacrificial lifestyle that most Christians think they’re giving something up that you’re not -- flipping the script actually prevents them from using that argument to build a wall -- it puts you and them on an equal playing field that can actually continue the conversation, as opposed to letting the Christian think they've trapped you in an ad hominem argument and then walking away.
Naw, I’m not saying this is the be all and end all of ways to talk to Christians on this issue. I’m not saying it’ll deconvert them -- it probably won’t (at least, not by itself). But I do think it increases understanding, which is kinda what I’m looking for these days, more or less.